By Denis House
LAUREL COUNTY, Ky. —
Trent Abner went 3-4, including a 3-run homer, while Alex Sears and Trey Martin added solo shots as the South Laurel Cardinals mercy ruled visiting Lincoln County Saturday, 11-1.
“It was a better offensive performance than last night,” coach Wynn Harris said, referring to his team’s 4-2 win over McCreary Central. “I liked our plan at the plate better.” That plan included 12 hits and only two strikeouts by Cardinal batters as South was very patient at the plate.
Zach Allen picked up the win for the Cardinals (4-0), doing three innings, allowing one unearned run, no hits, two strikeouts and one walk. Lincoln County scored its lone run in the top of the first, thanks to two South Laurel errors.
“Our defense struggled in the first inning,” Harris said “Then we got things figured out.”
With one out in the first, Josh Wilson hit a grounder to third that shortstop Martin couldn’t come up with. Following a strikeout, Dylan King grounded to third, where the ball hit off Daniel Neal’s glove for the second error and allowed Wilson to score.
After that, the Cards defense settled down, and the offense came to life.
Trailing 1-0 in the bottom of the third, Neal got things going for the Cards with a single past third. With Matt Slavey at the plate, Neal took off for second, and was almost picked off, but he used some smart base running to slide into second between two Lincoln County (1-1) players for a stolen base. After Slavey fanned, Allen moved Neal to third on a ground out to second.
With two outs and Martin at bat, Neal scored the tying run on a wild pitch by Patriot starter Logan Young. By the time the third out was recorded, the Cards scored four more runs for a 5-1 lead.
Martin doubled to left and stole third. Austin Moore fought off several foul pitches before drawing a walk. When Brennan Miller reached on an error, Martin came home for a 2-1 lead, while Taylor Morris (running for Moore) and Miller advanced to second and third on the throw home.
That brought Abner to the plate. After struggling in the first two games of the season, the Cardinal centerfielder seems to have found his stroke, as he blasted a 3-run homer over left-center to make it 5-1.
The Cards added four more runs in the bottom of the third to up their lead to 9-1. Again it was Neal who got things started, as he sent a high pop fly into shallow center field. The wind played havoc with the ball, as Lincoln County centerfielder Nolan Sanders came running in and dove for the ball, but he couldn’t come up with it.
Slavey bunted Neal to second, who then stole third. He scored when Allen grounded out short to first. Martin singled to center, moved to second on a passed ball and stole third. Moore walked, and Tucker Martin was brought in as a courtesy runner. Miller then drew a walk to load the bases and chase Young from the game. He was replaced by Zach Brown, who gave up a single to Abner that scored both Martins to make it 8-1. When Abner stole second, Miller came home for a 9-1 lead.
Moore took over on the mound for South, and with two outs, gave up a single and a walk, but then got Tyler Poynter to ground out to first to end the inning.
Sears led off the bottom of the inning for the Cards and took a 3-1 pitch and deposited it over the left field fence for a 10-1 lead and his third home run of the season.
Slavey took over on the mound for South in the fifth inning After getting the first two runners out, he gave up an infield single and two walks to load the bases before striking out King.
The Cards also left the bases loaded in the bottom of the inning off new pitcher Sanders. Abner beat out an infield single with one out, and Joe Gaines followed with a single of his own. With runners on first and third, Sears grounded short, who cut down Abner trying to score from third. An intentional walk to Neal loaded the bases, but Slavey popped out to the pitcher to end the threat.
Neal then saw his first action on the mound in the top of the sixth, and he allowed one hit but struck out two. With one out in the bottom of the inning, Martin homered to left off a 1-2 pitch to make it 11-1 and end the game due to the mercy rule.
Once again Harris used multiple pitchers to secure the win. He was pleased with all four of his hurlers’ performance on the afternoon.
“We pitched it pretty well,” Harris said. “We had some hiccups, but we threw strikes and everybody got through their innings. All in all it was a good game and I’m proud of our guys.”
The Cards were scheduled to travel to Knox Central Monday night and host Russell County Tuesday. South will then travel to McCreary Central Thursday before returning home to host North Laurel Friday.